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Lent's road to new life... even for Kartel

Michael BURKE

Thursday, March 20, 2014    

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IT is now a week since the guilty verdict was passed on Vybz Kartel in the Supreme Court of Jamaica. I will not comment on the verdict, but I will make my own comments on some versions of dancehall music. And I am doing this as a Lenten reflection.

Lent is a period of 40 days before Easter. In the western church, Sundays are not counted so Lent is usually about 45 days. In the West, Easter Sunday is the first Sunday after the first full moon after the vernal equinox (March 21). Forty days before that (excluding Sundays) is Ash Wednesday and the Friday before Easter Sunday is Good Friday.

The word 'Lent' means spring. When Christianity entered Rome — which was the political centre of the world — it did some adaptation to culture in the same way that Jesus Christ adapted to the culture of the Jews. The Lord's Supper took place on the Jewish Passover, and the Holy Spirit descended on the Christians on the Jewish corn festival of Fifty Days (the two words translated is Pentecost).

In Pagan Rome, the season of spring meant "new life". That was when the trees would start to bring forth new blossoms, new leaves, and bear fruit. Pagan Romans worshipped Eostre, the goddess of spring at the first full moon after the vernal equinox. So the Feast of the Resurrection was called Easter. The resurrection of Jesus was also about "new life" because He rose from the dead.

In many churches there is also the baptism of converts at Easter, because to be baptised is to be "born again" (John 3:1-21) and therefore a "new life" just as with the resurrection. A Jamaican extension of cultural adaptations in the early 1970s occurred when Father Richard Ho Lung used reggae music for Christian worship in the early 1970s.

Due to the Protestant Reformation in the 1500s, the Roman Catholic Church at the Council of Trent standardised everything, including church music. The standardisation of music for worship in the Roman Catholic Church was reversed at the Second Vatican Council (1962-65).

By 1968, the Roman Catholic Church in Jamaica started celebrating folk masses. In the 1970s, when Father Ho Lung started to create reggae music, the Roman Catholic Church was heavily criticised by some members of the very denominations who today behave as if they invented the idea.

But, when it comes to cultural adaptation, the Church does not approve of any variation from Christian principles. This is why Christians in Jamaica shun so much of the lyrical content of contemporary dancehall music. Indeed, any music that propagates violence, any type of fornication, and the profiteering from slackness in general should also be shunned.

State minister for culture Damian Crawford has written that there is no evidence that dancehall music has caused crime and violence in Jamaica. Let us be clear on one thing. No form of music is the root cause of violence in Jamaica. What I believe, however, is that certain types of music have frustrated all attempts to stem crime, violence, and illicit sex. Crime and violence in Jamaica owes its genesis to the pirate culture of the Henry Morgan era.

Morgan was appointed governor of Jamaica to end piracy. Governor Morgan did that by selling land cheaply to pirates and they became the aristocracy of Jamaica in a day and age when only people with property could vote and be elected to the then House

of Assembly.

From the year 1961, there was a viewpoint that violent movies shown in the cinemas of Jamaica were being held responsible for the growing upsurge in violence. Please note that 1961 was the year before political independence in Jamaica.

Even then, the films that depicted all sorts of immorality, crime and violence were not the root cause of those things in Jamaica. The root cause was the rural-urban drift for employment and the displacement of children when their parents went to England after the Second World War.

On the night of September 1, 1957 when an excursion train from St Anne's Roman Catholic Church in western Kingston was returning to Kingston from Montego Bay, young hooligans jumped onto the train somewhere on the train route. The hooligans disconnected the brakes instead of the electricity and the train never reached Kingston. The crash at Kendal in Manchester (known as the Kendal Crash) caused 186 persons to lose their lives and hundreds more were injured. Twenty-year-old vandals on that train would be 77 years old today, and 15-year-old vandals would be 72 years old now.

The Japanese seminar on solar energy was held at the University of Technology, Jamaica, on Friday, February 21 this year. It was explained how the after effects of the tsunami in 2004 obliged them to make further inventions in solar energy as rewiring the whole country would have been too expensive. It gave truth to the adage 'necessity is the mother of invention'. Many in Japan objected and said that the solar equipment would cause the roofs of houses to cave in.

But the Japanese Government decided to try it first and find out what would happen. As it turned out, the equipment on house tops was not as big a problem as it was made out to be. When I heard that, I immediately remembered Damian Crawford. He could well be right. There is no documented evidence that dancehall music causes violent crimes or helps to sustain them. So let us do

the research.

Let us ban 'slack music' for five years and see what happens. Let us see if Vybz Kartel made the correct decision in not allowing his own children to listen to his music. And our DJs need not lose money in the five-year ban because we will only have the choice of clean music which Vybz Kartel and others are quite welcome to create, even if sentenced to prison.

ekrubm765@yahoo.com

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